This interview is part of our new AI in Healthcare series, where we interview the world's top thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between AI and healthcare.
In this interview, we speak with Troy Bankhead, Director of Techcyte Europe, to understand how his company is using AI to transform healthcare, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind Techcyte Europe? Why and how did you begin?
TB: Techcyte Europe was born in 2017 as the European extension of Techcyte, Inc., headquartered in Orem, Utah. Since 2014 Techcyte had been developing their capabilities in deep machine learning and partnering with specialists in several domains who helped build up our first algorithms. Techcyte Europe was created to establish a European presence and to expand our team overseas.
After creating the company, a year was spent working with the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy who has a thriving startup community and a forward-thinking culture for helping startups succeed to obtain a grant that enabled us to launch the company. We then recruited, bringing on our first two developers and a software tester. We continue to recruit, with an aim to build up our team, continue development of our platforms, and establish our name in the European market.
2. Please describe your use case and how Techcyte Europe uses artificial intelligence:
TB: Techcyte is a cloud-based, SaaS solution company that combines digital diagnostics tools with powerful image-analysis and deep-learning technology to assist pathologists, allowing them to work faster, more efficiently, and more accurately than has been previously possible. This is important because many lab tests are still being performed using manual microscopy. That’s 400-year-old technology! Thanks to the long-awaited intersection of advances in graphics computing power, hard disk storage and scanner technologies, we are finally in a position to be able to bring meaningful change to this technology using artificial intelligence.
Our system takes scanned images and not only identify but classify their contents. While the expertise and experience of the pathologist cannot be replaced, we can present them with data that is more thorough, accurate and faster because the computer can inspect all zones of interest without losing attention, doesn’t get tired or distracted, and benefits from the expertise of all other users of the system who help improve the system’s performance over time. The pathologist can then use that improved data to make better diagnoses quicker.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has Techcyte done for them?
TB: Laboratories have never been under so much pressure to control their costs, increase the quality of their work, and improve the service they offer. Using artificial intelligence to automate manual microscopy tasks has a dramatic impact on the cost of tests, as well as enabling existing technicians to be used for more value-added tasks. One of our clients, a Luxembourg-based laboratory, has automated most of their bacteriology line. However, the direct slide examination remains a manual process, which routinely creates back-logs and slows down the process. Using our technology will enable them to perform their direct exams much quicker and with a higher degree of certainty than with manual examination.
Our technology is also being used in laboratories where finding and recruiting qualified lab technicians is difficult. Statistically, there are fewer candidates than ever before, while the need has never been greater. This technology addresses those challenges by first reducing the learning curve for new technicians by providing a valuable aid to their diagnosis, and by greatly improving their working conditions, a criterion especially appreciated by younger generations who value flexibility, digital and remote working.
4. What other AI use cases in healthcare are you excited about?
TB: The next step for Techcyte is to scale and dramatically increase the number of users on our system. This will enable us to leverage the wisdom of the masses as we build out our data set to include more geographies, populations, and more pathologies.
What really excites us is adding our technology to the ever-growing amount of data that we can already access and combine it to improve health care overall. Personalised medicine is the way forward, where we will take the data that we are creating today, combine it with other data sources about the patient, their environment, their lifestyle, and genetic predispositions, and combine it with the almost limitless wealth of reference data to further improve diagnosis, and make data-based holistic patient treatment a reality.
5. Where will Techcyte be in five years?
TB: In a year Techcyte, Inc. aims to have our FDA approval, and Techcyte Europe our CE marking and will be busy building out our team in Luxembourg with sales, integration specialists and customer support. In 5 years, we will be a well-established name in the medical, veterinarian and air quality control communities, and we will have also moved into other fields that we are currently exploring, including food production, manufacturing, and environmental study. Our team will grow to other locations around the globe, and our datasets will grow and benefit from the virtuous cycle created by our users helping us further build more and more robust, heterogeneous data sets that will enable us to further innovate and improve on our current platform.